Warm Southern Breeze

"… there is no such thing as nothing."

Yes, it’s perfectly legal to lie to police.

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Sunday, July 15, 2012

Doubtless, at one time or another, many of us have read or heard of individuals being charged with “lying to police,” “giving false information to a Law Enforcement Officer,” or any of the other numerous charges which go by similar names.

Initially, the Miranda v Arizona case made it clear that according to our Constitution, one had no compunction or legal requirement to speak with police. What that illustrates is refusal, not dishonesty. However, the recent Supreme Court ruling in the Stolen Valor Act case reinforced the notion that, unless one is under oath, lying – blatant dishonesty – is perfectly legal. Here’s how.

The “Stolen Valor Act of 2005” (Public Law 109-437) sought to broaden provisions in scope and penalty of 18 U.S.C. § 704, which addressed the unauthorized wear, manufacture, or sale of any military decorations and medals. The law made it a federal misdemeanor to falsely represent oneself as having received any U.S. military decoration or medal, and was signed by President George W. Bush, December 20, 2006.

Initially, one challenge to the law was United States v. Strandlof, in which The Rutherford Institute – a Virginia-based civil rights organization that has typically supported right-wing causes/cases – joined in defending. Another challenge to the law was United States v. Alvarez in the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. Writing the 2-1 majority opinion ruling, Judge Milan Smith wrote, “The right to speak and write whatever one chooses – including, to some degree, worthless, offensive and demonstrable untruths – without cowering in fear of a powerful government is, in our view, an essential component of the protection afforded by the First Amendment.” Dissenting Judge Jay Bybee said the Constitution does not protect knowingly false speech. Judges Bybee and Smith were both appointed by then-President George W. Bush.

Later, the United States appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court, which heard the case. However, on June 28, 2012, by a 6-3 majority in United States v. Alvarez, the Supreme Court held that the Stolen Valor Act was an unconstitutional abridgment of the freedom of speech under the First Amendment.

How does that relate to lying to police? Again, here’s how.

The key component to the scenario is in the fact that there is no oath given. That is to say, that the person speaking is not under any legal compunction to tell the truth. They have not sworn to tell the truth. As a matter of fact, they’ve not made any oath of any kind.

Now, here’s what I’d like to know are two things: 1.) How many of those such laws penalizing lying to police will now be eliminated, and; 2.) As a result of this law being overturned, how many cases wherein people were charged with such crimes will have the charges dropped, cases expunged, overturned, etc.?

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